I really wish Connie Willis wrote more humor because she's rather good at it. This one was much less complicated than my favorite of hers, To Say Nothing of the Dog, but it had just the right degree of silliness to tide me over.
Basic premise: Sandra, a scientist working for a company that doesn't really understand science, is thwarted by incompetent office staff and overzealous coworkers alike while trying to figure out what makes a fad catch on. Through hair bobbing, hoola hoops, flocks of sheep, iced tea, a fashion-impaired colleague, ostrich ranchers, hair dye, personal ads, the Niemnitz Grant, two thousand expense requisition forms, and a righteous yet bizarre anti-smoking campaign, Willis comments on everything from corporate America to Youth in Revolt, and it's hilarious.
The best thing about Willis's writing is her ability to capture small, absurd details, and then continue to present them with a straight face throughout the story, growing ever more ridiculous with each repetition. In To Say Nothing of the Dog, it was Victorian mannerisms, jumble sales, and classic mystery novels. In Bellwether, it's trendiness and militant nonsmoking. Don't get me wrong: not smoking? Excellent life choice. But Willis takes it to the extreme, as her lazy, 22 year-old trendsetting office assistant dubs the air from a smoker's lungs to be "secondhand-secondhand smoke" and proceeds to have the resident smoker literally pushed out into the cold in the name of FDA-regulated safety.
Basically, the book cracked me up and was a joy to read.